Battle of the Beasts: A Tale of Epic Proportions from the Brothers Grimm

Diz Wallis, Retold by, Diz Wallis, Illustrator, Diz Wallis, Author Handprint Books $16.95 (32p) ISBN 978-1-929927-15-9
Based on a Brothers Grimm tale (""The Willow Wren and the Bear,"" also known as ""The Kinglet and the Bear""), this oversize picture book pits ""fur against the feather"" when Bear rejects the wren's claim to royalty. In the Grimm tale, the wren's singing attracts the bear's attention, but in Wallis's retelling, Bear ""had heard"" that the wren was ""the King of Birds"" and thus wants to see the royal's palace. When he snubs the princelings (he calls them ""five puny little birdies in a nasty little nesty, with a scrubby, shrubby garden all around""), the wren declares war. Wallis's paintings are at their best as the creatures assemble their teams: a naturalistic full-page painting of the birds perched on tree limbs with butterflies, bees and gnats flitting nearby, and another of Fox mounting the elephant's back to keep lookout convey the lushness of the forest. The gnat acts as the birds' spy and learns that Fox's tail will be the beasts' standard; the birds then send in a hornet. Stung, Fox lets his tail droop and the animals quickly retreat, assuming defeat. Wallis's playful, poetic descriptions (""squelchy puddles by the muddy Mississippi""; Bear with his ""shabby, shaggy knees"") make this a strong read-aloud choice. Her minutely detailed paintings, however, recall botanical prints, and despite occasional touches of humor may appeal more to adults. Ages 5-8. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 07/31/2000
Release date: 08/01/2000
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